The small, picturesque parish and village of Falkland in Fife sits in between the two Lomond Hills. It is a former royal burgh, and is home to the one-time royal residence of Falkland Palace.
The name of Falkland is believed to have originated from the English ‘falcon land’, which refers to the sport of falconry, which probably would have been a popular sport among the nobles in the area. However, it has also been suggested that the name derives the Scots word falclann, which means “scrubbing” or “washing” clean.
It wasn’t until sometime after that Middle Ages that the area became known as Falkland. Before then, the name only referred to the Castle. The burgh and parish were known as Kilgour, meaning “pleasant church”.
A royal hunting lodge was present in the area, and in 1160 it was donated by King Malcolm IV to Duncan, Earl of Fife. It is believed that there was a settlement at Falkland before the 1100s, but it wasn’t until the construction of Falkland Castle, replacing the hunting lodge, in the latter half of the 12th century that really saw the development of a village. The castle now lies within the grounds of Falkland Palace.
Falkland was granted royal burgh status in 1458, however, it didn’t function in the same ways as other royal burghs. Falkland grew as a medieval settlement, and the village was dependent on Falkland Castle and Falkland Palace, rather than on the crown.
Falkland Palace was built between 1501 and 1541 by James IV and James V. It was a royal residence for the Stewart kings and queens as they hunted the boars and deer in the forests of Fife. Mary, Queen of Scots, was also a frequent visitor. The palace’s French-influenced Renaissance architecture is considered to have been some the most exceptional architecture of its time in Britain. Falkland Palace also has one of the only 16th century tennis courts in Britain – the other being at Hampton Court in England.
In 1654, during the civil war, a fire broke out in Falkland Palace when it was occupied by the troops of Oliver Cromwell. For a long time after the fire the palace and the town were neglected. John Crichton–Stuart, 3rd Marquis of Bute, inherited a large amount of Falkland in the second half of the 19th century, and he restored a significant portion of the town, including the palace.
Most recently, Falkland has featured in the hit TV show ‘Outlander’. It features in some of the first scenes of the show, doubling as Inverness during the Second World War.